Africans Abroad: Elneny eclipses Salah at Wembley, Aubameyang the hero again

Less than a month after firing Arsenal to the FA Cup against Chelsea in Wembley, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang returned to the home of English football to open the scoring and then convert the winning penalty as the Gunners defeated Liverpool to clinch the Community Shield following a 1-1 draw.

There were various African players in action in the traditional curtain-raiser of the new season, but intriguingly, it was Mohamed Elneny -- in from the cold at the Emirates Stadium -- who eclipsed his compatriot Mohamed Salah.

Hope for Elneny's Gunners future?

The Egypt midfielder was deemed surplus to requirements under Mikel Arteta's predecessor, Unai Emery, and moved on loan to Besiktas almost a year to the day of the Community Shield.

He hadn't featured for the club for 15 months ahead of the weekend's meeting, but was surprisingly named in the starting XI and gave a good account of himself alongside Granit Xhaka.

Late in the first half, with Arsenal a goal up, the Reds enjoyed a sustained spell of pressure, but were unable to find the breakthrough due -- in no small part -- to the diligent defending and tenacity of the former FC Basel man.

At 28 years old, Elneny doesn't quite fit the profile of this exciting young Arsenal team Arteta is crafting, but he offers the grit and aggression that has been lacking -- at times -- so far this calendar year, and is underrated in possession as well.

Despite being away from Premier League intensity for over a year, the North African had the poise and guile to evade the Reds' pressing on several occasions, and the Spanish coach may well be tempted to keep his energy and dynamism around.

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"I know Mo really well," Arteta told journalists after the match, as per the Arsenal website.

"I played with him, so I know what he can be, and I know his strengths and weaknesses really well. He's a really positive character to have around and has some really good qualities as well and like anybody else.

"In the moment that he is with us, he will be given all our support and the best possible environment for them to perform as high as they can. We don't know [if he'll stay].

"The sixth of October is still too far, as I said. It's pretty unpredictable to know what's going to happen."

Off-day for Liverpool's African trio

In contrast to his Pharaohs teammate, Salah struggled to ignite as Liverpool -- as they had done during the final weeks of the season -- appeared still to be suffering something of a hangover after finally getting their hands on the Premier League title.

There was an excellent moment of interplay with Takumi Minamino midway through the second half as the Japanese forward came off the bench to equalise for the Reds, although it was a rare moment of excellence during a frustrating display for Salah.

For Sadio Mane, too, there were some fleeting glimpses of his quality -- notably when he picked up a long ball forward before the hour mark, avoided the attentions of Rob Holding, but was denied by Emiliano Martinez.

Naby Keita was also introduced by Jurgen Klopp as the Reds sought a change of fortunes, but couldn't influence the final half hour after replacing James Milner.

Arsenal's young guns continue their progression

Beyond Elneny, Arteta will be more encouraged than Klopp by the performances of his African contingent. Up front, Eddie Nketiah set the tone for a Gunners display which was relatively high-octane considering the context.

Obviously, the Anglo-Ghanaian attacker brings energy and relentless running to the table, but there's intelligence and technical quality there too.

In a moment reminiscent of his opener against Southampton in the victory in June, Nketiah -- snapping at the heels of the opposition defenders -- dispossessed Joe Gomez inside the Reds half, played a one-two with Bukayo Saka, but was denied by Alisson.

Perhaps Arteta could have expected better with the finish, and he'll be determined to work on the forward's rougher edges over the coming months.

On the evidence of his performance, however, don't be surprised to see the youngster get the nod ahead of Alexandre Lacazette again as the year progresses.

Even the imperious Virgil van Dijk -- on a handful of occasions -- appeared troubled by Nketiah's persistent chasing, harrying and working the channels, and he'll net a few goals this term merely from hassling defenders into mistakes -- and being first to pick up the pieces.

Saka, even more so than Nketiah, has made the transition from rookie to established first-teamer in a very short space of time, but having been a relative unknown 12 months ago, it's now no longer a surprise to see him making decisive contributions against high-profile opponents.

His 12th-minute assist for Aubameyang's opener was his 13th since the start of the 2019-20 campaign; for context, only Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kevin De Bruyne have registered more during that period.

It's a remarkable achievement for a youngster who had only played seven league minutes before the start of last term, and has spent much of his Gunners career to date in an unfavoured, unfamiliar left-back role.

On Saturday, his biggest moment came from the opposite flank, with Saka's long raking ball from the right picking out Auba, moving into a left-hand channel, before the Gabon hitman duly finished with customary aplomb, leaving Alison little chance with a delicious strike from the edge of the box.

Saka could have had another assist minutes later when he played in Nketiah, and while he missed out on Gareth Southgate's latest England squad, unfortunately, for Super Eagles fans, it increasingly appears to be only a matter of time before the wideman gets Three Lions recognition.

Aubameyang conquers Wembley again

While Arsenal's supporting cast all played their parts effectively -- and surpassed expectations in Elneny's case -- Aubameyang again stole the headlines.

Including his winning penalty in the shootout, he's netted six times in his last three Wembley outings -- doubles in the 2-0 victory over Manchester City in July's semifinal, and the August 1 triumph over Chelsea in the final.

He hasn't quite reached Didier Drogba levels of Wembley dominance, but Auba clearly enjoys playing at the cathedral of English football -- albeit with no fans there to watch his goalscoring heroics.

This time, he didn't drop the trophy, but the question of his future -- inevitably -- came up again at the final whistle, when the touchline interviewer asked him whether an agreement was imminent on a new contract.

"We are going to see," he replied, evasively.

"Today we will just take the trophy and that is it."

After similarly vague comments after the FA Cup final, BT Sport pundit Rio Ferdinand suggested that Auba spoke as though he was a man destined for the exit door at Arsenal.

A month later, and while Arteta remains as confident that his forward will sign a new deal, his optimism is also feeling increasingly hollow.

The Spaniard is getting the best out of talents such as Saka and Nketiah at Arsenal, and while he's certainly onto something promising, it's clearly imperative that his leading man commits his future to the cause.